08 May 2012

Bagram CASF team plays critical role for wounded in theater

Airmen from the 10th Expeditionary Air Medical Evacuation Team reconfigures a C-17 Globemaster aircraft to transport injured and wounded patients from Bagram Air Field to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for further care and treatment. The C-17 can accommodate up to 36 litter and 50 ambulatory patients. Photo and story: Staff Sgt. Catrina Dorsey.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The team of nurses, medical technicians and litter carriers wait for the C-130 Hercules aircraft to arrive, ready to receive, in-process and prepare patients to go forward to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for further treatment.

The team is part of the contingency aeromedical staging facility, a modular staging facility designed to support worldwide expeditionary missions. Patients are staged at the CASF for approximately 24 hours where they’re provided medical attention while waiting for transport to a higher level of medical care.

“We provide 24/7 operational support to all scheduled and unscheduled aeromedical evacuation missions at Bagram Air Field,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Kimberly Boswell-Yarbrough, a native of Plattsburgh, N.Y., CASF flight commander. “We provide ground transportation and manpower for all AE patients to and from the aircraft, Craig Joint Theater Hospital or CASF.”

There is a core of 30 personnel comprised of nurses, medical technicians, administrative technicians and a pharmacy technician. They all come from different duty stations within the United States.

“The job I do in the CASF is very important, not only do we bring in, orient, change dressings and administer medications to these patients, we try to establish a report to assist them in coping with their injuries,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Steven Holmes Jr., a native of Greenwood, S.C. “Some patients arrive and have their best friends over in the intensive care unit at CJTH in critical condition. To see the hurt in these soldiers’ eyes humbles me and helps me feel, even if a relative small amount, of the pain they go through in these situations.”

The CASF mission is unique for the members of the team because the vast majority of the staff performs a job entirely different from their home station occupation.

“Its extremely rewarding and gratifying sending our wounded servicemen and women to a higher echelon of care and knowing they are one step closer to being home with loved ones and able to receive the specialized care, treatment, or rehabilitation required,” said Boswell-Yarbrough. “I am very privileged and honored to have the opportunity to be part of this mission.”

In order to transport a patient through the different levels of care, the CASF staff interfaces and communicate with numerous agencies in order to complete an AE mission. The patients must validate and manifest on an AE mission prior to any movement.

The CASF team receives upwards of two C-130 intratheater missions daily from various medical facilities throughout Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. Inbound missions can range from one to 20 patients.

To get to the next level of care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the CASF team launches five scheduled outbound C-17 Globemaster aircrafts each week. The average outbound patient load can vary from five to 40 patients. The C-17 can accommodate up to 36 litter and 50 ambulatory patients.

“Our staff has really come together throughout this deployment. It takes strong individuals, physically and mentally to do what we do,” said U.S. Air Force Airmen 1st Class Alexandra Kennedy, a native of Westminster, Md., stationed at Brook Army Medical Center. “There is a sense of pride in knowing you are good at what you do and are part of a team.”

Once the outbound mission has been confirmed and scheduled, it takes approximately four hours to prepare the patients with appropriate medications, documents, equipment, medical supplies and litters. The CASF team begins loading the patients onto the ambulatory bus approximately two hours prior to departure.

“The patients are why I love my job. I am just truly honored to be here and do anything I can for soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen we get to help on a daily basis,” said Kennedy. “The real wounds aren’t always visible, and even when a mission is hectic or urgent, we can’t forget who we are serving, who we are caring for, or why we are here.”

“The military is my family. This is my way of thanking them for all they do for me,” she added.

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